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Wicklow Mountains National Park


Following the end of rebellion in 1652, the 'Adventurers' which had financially backed Government forces were now able to colonize the lands of the now evicted O'Byrnes and O'Tooles. This colonization was known as the Restoration. In much of Wicklow, many of the adventurers who were awarded land in the aftermath of the rebellion failed to take up their holdings or quickly sold the land on to other landowners. The O'Byrne and O'Toole names were still prominent in the upland parishes, despite the transplantation. It was never the intention of the authorities to remove large numbers from the land. Rather, the the policy was aimed at dispossessing landholders in order to confiscate their lands. It is one of the more enduring myths of Irish history that the Cromwellian order, 'To Hell or to Connaught', drove vast numbers across the Shannon. In fact, the numbers were very few.

Much of the area, particularly in the south, was heavily forested and had proved a boon to rebelling forces during the centuries of war, so a policy of removing the tree-cover was instigated. In fact, forestry was already well established as County Wicklow's first true industry. During the Tudor period, timber had become valuable. It was required for fuel and heat, housing and ship-building. Wood-charcoal was also the main resource used for smelting iron. The magnificent oak woods near Shillelagh, in the south of the county, were particularly well renowned and Sir Arthur Chichester in 1608 noted that the timber from these woods could '...furnish the King for his shipping and other uses for 20 years to come'. At this time Wicklow was the only remaining county in Leinster with extensive tree cover.

By 1654 a forestry service had been established in the county and a woodreeve, four assistants and a clerk had been employed to manage the exploitation of the resource. A royal order issued in 1661 further regulated the forests recognising that '..these woods will be of great use for shipping'. Felling of trees was prohibited pending an inspection of the forests. Inspite of this management only small fragments of the ancient oak woodlands were conserved.

There was a clear denominational delineation in land ownership. Protestants accounted for a higher proportion of the population in the more fertile parts of the upland parishes. The less fertiles areas of the upland were the preserve of the Catholics. At this stage, few inter-denominational marriages occurred. Despite significant demographic changes within the previous thirty years, Protestants were still in the minority.

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